In this era of nonstop comic book movies, prequels, sequels and spin-offs, the brass in Hollywood’s highest offices talk a lot about whether certain movie genres—like the coffee-guzzling, fedora-friendly detective/crime thriller—are extinct or else have migrated permanently to television. After all, when Matthew McConaughey earns stellar reviews for HBO’s True Detective, no wonder other talents on the order of Naomi Watts, Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, J.J. Abrams and David Fincher keep looking to TV for a chance to do riskier projects.
Fear not, says an agent for A-list, household name talents: 2017 promises that smaller-scope cop and crime sagas aren’t pushing up daisies just yet. “When the right constellation of talent and creative elements align, some studios like Universal, Fox, or Warner Bros. will still roll the dice on, say, a period thriller, something based on a novel, or a cops-and-robbers drama for the over-30 demographic. If the talent is especially smart, they really do tend to come in with a project that’s crime-related. It’s sellable.”
This should come as a relief to red-blooded cinephiles everywhere. And a glance at next year’s offerings proves that we’ll be well looked after.
That goes a long way toward explaining things like the crime drama Mena, a tale told in the book Barry & ‘the Boys’: The C.I.A., the Mob, and America’s Secret History. Directed by Doug Liman, the film stars Edge of Tomorrow star Tom Cruise as real-life TWA pilot Barry Seal, who launched a drug-smuggling business out of a small Arkansas town, got caught and avoided prison time by helping the Feds try to take down the Medellin cartel. Expect a cool period soundtrack, funky threads and lots wigs. (But will Cruise appear, like Seal himself, as a 300 lb. dude?)
Meanwhile, an already bulked-up Ben Affleck goes Prohibition era in Live by Night, directed and adapted for the big screen by Affleck from Dennis Lehane’s novel, in which our latest Batman plays the son of a Boston police captain who becomes a kingpin of organized crime by running rum and doing lots and lots of dirty dealing. He also becomes catnip to female characters played by Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning and Zoe Saldana.
Then there's Michael Fassbender starring as Harry Hole (yeah, really), the detective created by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø, in the movie version of The Snowman, about the disappearance of a woman and how her favorite scarf gets found ornamenting a nightmarish snowman. The Son, also by Nesbø, whose books have sold over 30 million copies worldwide, is getting the big screen treatment from Prisoners and Blade Runner sequel director Denis Villeneuve. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as wrongly imprisoned former wrestler who breaks out of jail to avenge himself on the people who locked him up and threw away the key.
Director Edgar Wright, who dropped out of the Ant-Man project in 2014, comes back with a Brit-American crime heist serio-comedy Baby Driver, featuring Ansel Elgort as a pop-music fanatic and getaway driver for assorted bank robbers for whom things go south—fast. The movie also stars smooth criminals Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Jon Bernthal.
The rules of the game are clear. If you want to get a smaller genre movie made, remember: crime pays.